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Israeli PM Netanyahu Plans Visit To Sochi To Meet With Putin

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will travel to Russia on August 23 to meet with President Vladimir Putin, the Israeli leader's office says.

Netanyahu's office on August 19 said the two leaders will meet at the Black Sea resort town of Sochi to discuss "the latest developments in the [Middle East] region."

The Kremlin has not yet commented on reports of Netanyahu's planned meeting with Putin.

One of the main subjects likely to be discussed is concerns expressed by Israel over events in Syria, which is embroiled in a six-year civil war.

Russia supports the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a bitter longtime Israeli rival.

Israel has attempted to remain out of the fighting. But its air force has struck what Israel says are weapons shipments directed toward the anti-Israeli Hizballah militant group, which supports Assad.

Israel and Russia have created a mechanism to prevent mishaps between their air forces operating over Syria.

It must be noted that over the past two years, Netanyahu has repeatedly met with Putin to discuss bilateral and regional issues in order to prevent undesirable incidents between the Israeli and Russian air forces in Syria, which is still being successfully implemented," the prime minister's office said.

Earlier this year, Russia's Foreign Ministry summoned Israel's ambassador over air strikes near Moscow's forces close to the Syrian city of Palmyra.

Israeli Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz told the AFP news agency that Russia is generally not informed ahead of time of Israeli strikes in Syria, although a "hotline" was established in 2016 to avoid unintended incidents.

Netanyahu is also likely to discuss with Putin his concerns that Iran, which also backs Assad, is attempting to establish a permanent military presence in southern Syria.

Copyright (c) 2015. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036.

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